Guide to next-gen antivirus: What is next-generation antivirus (NGAV)

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Computer viruses were a destructive menace over a decade ago, corrupting data, crashing computers, and reducing operational capacity. Antivirus software blocked these threats by matching their code with the signatures of known threats.

As cybersecurity companies improved signature-detection technology and updated databases more frequently, viruses became more of a legacy threat.

Creators of malicious software shifted focus to more sophisticated malware that traditional antivirus systems can’t stop easily. Not only is this new breed of malware more dangerous, but it also helps its authors generate revenue through tracking, data exfiltration, extortion, identity theft, and other malicious activity.

Traditional antivirus software struggles to stop these threats — next-generation threats require next-generation cybersecurity solutions.

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NGAV meaning: What is next-generation antivirus (NGAV)?

Next-generation antivirus (NGAV) takes a more comprehensive approach to cybersecurity, stopping known and unknown threats by utilizing a system of advanced technologies. It monitors and proactively responds to a threat’s attacks, procedures, and techniques, such as techniques, tactics, and procedures (TTPs) in the MITRE ATT&CK Framework. It may also gather and examine endpoint data to develop more positive cybersecurity outcomes. 

How does NGAV work?

Next-generation antivirus (NGAV) works by leveraging artificial intelligence, machine learning, behavioral detection, exploit mitigation, cloud-based architecture, and other cutting-edge technologies to stop both legacy and never-before-seen threats that may evolve quickly to circumvent cybersecurity measures.

NGAV is also agile. As a lightweight and fast tool, it shields an endpoint without hindering its performance.

Malwarebytes Premium is an example of next-generation antivirus software. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to power its antivirus, anti-malware, and anti-spyware heuristic analysis technology.

Essentially, heuristic analysis detects threats by analyzing a threatening program’s structure, behavior, and other attributes, like programming logic and data. Heuristics make next-gen antivirus proactive rather than reactive by finding malware in files, boot records, networks, and ports before it can do damage.

Malwarebytes also leverages several proprietary technologies to go beyond other next-generation antivirus programs:

  1. Web Protection stops access to bad neighborhoods like malicious websites, ad networks, and scammer pits.
  2. Application Hardening minimizes vulnerability exploit surface. It also scans fingerprinting attempts by malware. 
  3. Application Behavior Protection stops applications from being used as infection vectors against the endpoint. 
  4. Payload Analysis recognizes entire families of known malware.
  5. Behavior Monitoring detects and blocks one of the most menacing malware today, ransomware.

NGAV vs EDR: Next-generation antivirus vs EDR

With a better understanding of how next-generation antivirus works, you might ask yourself, “Well, what is endpoint security then?” Endpoint detection and response (EDR) tools protect devices such as laptops, phones, tablets, or servers, by utilizing threat intelligence to detect, block, and remediate cyber threats.

Many companies caught up in the next-generation antivirus vs EDR debate wonder which tool is better.

The answer is that NGAV and EDR (endpoint detection and response) are both essential elements of cybersecurity. Together they can help organizations detect suspicious activities, stopping many of them before they gain a foothold.

While NGAV focuses on a single endpoint, EDR collates data from many endpoints in an organization. In other words, NGAV enhances the superiority of anti-malware response, while EDR expands the cybersecurity picture, noticing minor alterations in files, registries, and networks across the enterprise. At the same time, EDR helps minimize time-consuming false positives by determining whether these alterations are threatening.

Excellent cross-platform endpoint detection and response systems carry multiple features to protect computers and devices:

Known attack detection: Conventional signature-based detection is the first layer of defense, stopping legacy threats and newer cataloged malware by matching potential threats with a list of known signatures. Known attack detection can stop primary threats without fuss, but it’s usually less effective against zero-day threats.

Behavioral analysis: With behavioral analysis, next-gen antivirus software leverages artificial intelligence to look for malware indicators. This technology is excellent at hunting benign applications that behave abnormally, like an email client spamming contacts or macro exploits running shell commands in word processing software.

Machine learning: When fed enough data, the machine learning next-gen antivirus algorithm recognizes patterns in a group of endpoints and uses those insights to determine whether programs are malicious. In other words, machine learning helps cybersecurity tools learn from the experience for better anomaly detection.

Exploit mitigation: The exploit mitigation layer in next-gen antivirus technology mitigates the risk of threat actors exploiting software flaws.

Automation: Users can modify settings and policies once to automate the protection process with automation features. Compare this to traditional antivirus software that may wait for users to respond to a threat alert, allowing a fast-moving cybersecurity threat to wreak havoc.

Remediation: A modern cybersecurity solution’s job isn’t complete after removing active malware. Remediation technology removes artifacts and mechanisms that may help the threat claw its way back in.

Cloud-based management: Due to cloud-delivered security, contemporary antivirus software is easy to deploy and manage. It’s also highly scalable, allowing individual users and businesses to easily purchase more licenses for desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones and enjoy fast implementation. By contrast, legacy antivirus solutions can take weeks, if not months, to roll out for an organization.

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Benefits of next-gen antivirus vs legacy antivirus

Legacy antivirus software was never designed to defend against modern threats. Next-generation computer antivirus software stops and remediates different cyberattacks while offering a series of other benefits too.

Detects known and unknown threats

Legacy computer antivirus software stops threats by relying on a database of known signatures for computer viruses. In layperson’s terms, signatures are strings of characters associated with known malicious software. But the malware industry evolved rapidly, leaving traditional antivirus tools inadequate.

Nowadays, legacy threats like computer viruses have taken a backseat to more advanced threats like ransomware, spyware, Trojans, worms, bots, polymorphic malware, and metamorphic malware. Some of these threats carry unknown signatures, while others can modify their identifiable features to bypass signature-detection technology.

NGAV stops known and unknown threats by using sophisticated intelligence systems.

Advanced protection and prevention

In addition to emerging malware, modern hackers utilize exploits, memory-based attacks, macro-based attacks, remote access tools, and scripting languages to find weaknesses in security systems. They also use social engineering techniques, phishing emails, malicious websites, and drive-by downloads to launch multi-faceted cyberattacks.

NGAV offers advanced protection and prevention against these risks by nullifying different elements in a hacker’s arsenal.

Time-efficient

  • Minimizes downtime and disaster risks with its fast response and intelligent reaction.
  • Offers more accurate and easy-to-understand reports.
  • Cloud-based deployment allows clients to rapidly install multiple applications in a single day.
  • Easier to manage with automatic updates, minimal configuration requirements, and seamless integration into different infrastructures.
  • Reduces dwell time and allows network teams to focus on other concerns.

Minimal endpoint impact

NGAV is a highly effective yet light solution. It secures endpoints of different hardware configurations without burdening them. Minimal impact allows desktops, laptops, devices, and servers to function optimally.

Reduced operating costs

Organizations shielded by NGAV enjoy reduced operating costs due to its cost-effective management and deployment. With a cybersecurity tool minimizing the risk of a disaster such as a crippling ransomware attack, post-breach costs are also lower.

NGAV solutions: What to look for you in your NGAV vendor

Purchase your NGAV solution from a vendor that’s a trusted name in cybersecurity and provides excellent customer service. The best vendors offer support during every phase of NGAV deployment, from pre-installation and installation to management and post-installation. They’re also available 24/7 on chat and email, with priority phone support.

As cyberattacks grow in complexity and scope, you need a best-in-class NGAV solution that secures your business interests and endpoints from known and unknown threats. Top NGAV software finds emerging malware while maintaining a low false positive rate. A low false-positive rate ensures that your operations remain smooth.

With ransomware threats rising and crippling organizations, ransomware rollback is also an essential component of any cybersecurity solution. Ransomware rollback restores files removed or encrypted by ransomware, reverting harmful changes.

Look for an agile NGAV solution in the cloud that’s cost-effective, fast and easy to deploy and highly scalable. After all, cloud-hosted security can be accessed from anywhere, allowing your team to manage threats across the enterprise, even when some systems are compromised due to a cyberattack, power failure, or hardware or software corruption.

Today’s malicious threats are innovative, fast, and sneaky. Using traditional antivirus software to protect yourself from them is like bringing a knife to a gunfight. Next-generation antivirus software employs several advanced technologies to stay one step ahead of legacy and emerging threats that jeopardize your security and privacy.

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Next-Gen Antivirus FAQs

Traditional AV is primarily centered on detecting malware at the endpoint level, whereas NGAV covers a wider variety of modern-day threats such as ransomware and fileless attacks.

Simply put, antivirus software is still necessary, but particular devices may require it more than others. iPhones are the only devices that do not necessarily require the installation of antivirus software. Android, macOS, and Windows devices still require antivirus software. Today's sophisticated threats are evolving and businesses can never be too careful, especially in a bring your own device (BYOD) setting.

  • Malware signature-based antivirus
  • System monitoring antivirus
  • Machine learning antivirus

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